Granulosa cell proliferation during luteinization and terminal differentiation has historically been assumed to decline rapidly after an ovulatory stimulus. In contrast, terminal differentiation in other cell types has recently been associated with a transient increase in proliferation, suggesting that this may occur in the ovarian follicle. The goal of the current study was to test the hypothesis that an ovulatory stimulus to rats results in additional granulosa cell proliferation before cell cycle arrest. Immature rats were given a single injection of pregnant mare serum gonadotropin (PMSG) followed by human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to initiate periovulatory events. The proportion of granulosa cells in S phase did not change until 12 h after hCG, although the majority of the post-hCG proliferation was localized to cumulus granulosa cells for up to 10 h after hCG. The expression of cyclin D2 mRNA did not decline until 12 h after hCG, although both cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk)4 and Cdk6 mRNA increased at 6 h. Protein levels of cyclin D2 and Cdk4 did not change as a result of hCG, whereas cyclin E increased 6 h after hCG. Kinase activity of Cdk2 dropped markedly by 4 h after hCG, but a slight increase in activity was evident 6-8 h after hCG. These data suggest that cumulus granulosa cells continue to proliferate for up to 10 h after an ovulatory stimulus, possibly via cyclin E/Cdk2. It is concluded that proliferation is maintained in granulosa cells in the proximity of the oocyte during luteinization of the rat follicle.
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